Sunday, 30 September 2012

Return of the Killer Tomatoes

There are some films where it's impossible to go in with a completely open mind. Whether it's because it's a sequel to a film you've seen a hundred times, it's the work of a director or actor you're very familiar with or you've been bombarded with a relentless marketing campaign, there are many factors that can influence your opinion of a film before you go and see it. And, of course, there's the title. The one inescapable truth about this film is that it's called Return of the Killer Tomatoes, and is therefore not going to be anything even close to highbrow or arthouse, and might just about scrape the underbelly of being entertaining.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Clueless

Is this the most 90s movie ever? If not, it must certainly crack the top 10, for though it is based on a novel written 180 years earlier, everything about Clueless, from the slang, the opinions and most vehemently the fashions positively scream 1990s. Upon release, this may have been topical and timely, but now it severely dates the film, and is mostly comical. Although saying that, there is a chance that it may have been funny at the time (I can't remember, I was 8 in 1995), as I can't imagine any time period in which a two-piece yellow plaid suit jacket and skirt were ever in fashion, even amongst teenage girls.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Top 5... Movies That Should Be In 1001 (2012 Edition)

Monday sees the release of the next edition of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book, which sees my recently reviewed Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy on the cover. This release got me thinking, what films would I most like to be added in this edition? As usual, my first instinct regarded efficiency and time-saving, so of course the films I'd post want to be added would be ones that I'd already reviewed, so I wouldn't have to review them again. But then I thought no, that's not really what I want. I want to watch new films, experience new things and write about them, that's why I'm writing a blog in the first place; to discuss movies. Why would I want an excuse to do that less? So as well as my already-reviewed list there's another for films that not only have I not reviewed, but that I haven't even seen, and I think should probably be on the List. Thirdly, because it's a super-bumper-bonus day, there's a final top 5 for the films that haven't appeared on either list, but will most likely be on the actual list, for which I haven't been consulted. What films do you all think will be on there?

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Never So Few

A Steve McQueen film set during World War 2 where at one point he talks about brewing his own alcohol? No, sadly I've not yet reached The Great Escape (one of my consistently top 5 films of all time), I'm onto Never So Few, the Frank Sinatra-starring final obstacle before I get to watch The Magnificent Seven again, when I'll actually start to enjoy going through all of Steve McQueen's films.

Never So Few sees Sinatra as Captain Tom Reynolds in North Burma during the Second World War. He and his band of highly trained men, including Peter Lawford's be-monocled Captain Grey Travis and Charles Bronson's Seargeant Danforth, are training the native Kachins to defend their land against their attackers, but the hardships of jungle warfare and the difficulties posed by his commanding officers - particularly the lack of an assigned doctor in his troop - begin to weigh on Reynolds.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Battle Royale

There are some films where you hear about the concept and think "Yes, this will be a truly amazing film." Battle Royale is such a film, with the premise being a class of 42 schoolkids are kidnapped, dropped onto an island and given weaponry and basic provisions. They are told that they have three days to kill all of their fellow classmates until only one survives, and if they fail, they'll all be killed. Sounds pretty awesome, right? Well that's what I thought the first time I watched it too, about 5 years ago, and since then I'd kind of forgotten a lot of it, and thought to myself that surely that film but have been amazing, because how can you go wrong with a concept like that? There's endless possibility for inventive deaths and character drama, what with these kids now having to kill their best friends or even their boyfriends and girlfriends, but unfortunately there were perhaps some reasons as to why I'd forgotten it.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Jude

I had a discussion with my girlfriend recently about The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, instigated by my viewing of the unimpressive trailer for the new remake (in 3D, of course). When I explained the basic premise - a group of kids run into a family of skin-wearing cannibals - she was appalled at A) why someone would watch such a film, B) why someone would make it, and C) what kind of depraved soul would own such a monstrosity. I then answered questions A and C (she wouldn't have cared that Tobe Hooper made it) by pointing to the copy of the film on my DVD shelf. Why do I bring this up? Well, though I'm not a massive fan of horror (I haven't seen The Texas Chain Saw Massacre since I bought it), I will occasionally watch a film for the same reasons I go on rollercoasters; they add a certain element of thrill and excitement - and terror - otherwise missing from my humdrum existence on this Earth. My question is, who would watch, make or own a film like Jude?

Monday, 24 September 2012

Man on Wire

Another film I reviewed for the So You Think You Can Review tournament at the Lamb, this also sees the start of my attempting to review at least one documentary a month for this site. 

I’ve had the debate many times with various people as to whether a documentary can really be considered as a film. This usually happens when I use the phrase “I watched a great film last night; it was a documentary about...” The conversation’s other participant invariably glazes over at the ‘D’ word, as how could anything compiled entirely from archive footage and talking-head interviews be seen as entertaining? After all, there’s the danger they might actually learn something. I feel that if there was ever going to be a documentary that could sway the naysayers, then that film is Man on Wire. Even though it is very much a true story, told by those involved with the aid of photographs, footage and re-enactments, this tale of a man attempting to infiltrate the World Trade Centre and walk a tightrope between the towers is compelling, nail-biting stuff, and for the most part feels like a work of fiction.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Seeing as the cover of the next edition of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die has been announced (the book is due to be released next month), I thought it'd be a good time to review the film on said cover, as it's a certainty to become a member of the hallowed list in the imminent future. So, without further ado, I present Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a film that I was very surprised to see on the cover, as personally I don't think I'd have included it in the book at all, giving the cover space instead to probably The Artist, even if the Tinker Tailor poster is better.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Champagne

There are some films that are just difficult to like, mainly because the lead is so detestable. Recent examples I've seen include Napoleon Dynamite, Vagabond and Transformers, and Champagne joins that far from hallowed list, although this time I feel that the lead, Betty Balfour's simply named The Girl, is meant to be unlikable as she's a spoilt little brat who only comes to realise she can be a good person when her father (Gordon Harker, Hitchcock alumnus from The Ring and The Farmer's Wife) loses all his money and she is forced to take care of him.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Top 5... Bill Murray Films

It's Bill Murray's birthday! The guy is a prime contender for a future Film-Makers Career Review, but until I see all of his work, here's my favourite of his films. Now, in my looking back at his career I noticed Murray has tended towards two kinds of roles, leads/major parts, or brief cameos, so I've made two lists to celebrate this fact:


5a. Caddyshack
I'm fairly sure the main reason this film is remembered as a comedy classic - by me at least - is because of Murray's breakthrough role as the deranged gopher-hunting groundskeeper Carl Spackler. His scene in his shed, talking to the little clay models of squirrels and rabbits he intends to use to destroy the golf course terrorising rodent is just wonderful, even if the gopher himself looks like one of the worst puppets ever put on screen.

5b. Get Smart
OK, so the film is pretty terrible, but Murray's cameo as the tree-dwelling lonely sad sack Agent 13 in this lacklustre spy reboot is one of the few watchable moments, and came as such a surprise to me when I watched the film that it almost made the experience worthwhile. Almost.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Winchester '73

The first things I have to say about this film are that it features one of the earliest credits for Tony Curtis, and that Rock Hudson is buried in the cast, and he plays an Indian. Right, now that's out of the way, let's talk about the film.

I like this kind of film. Now, that statement's not much good to you without knowing what kind of film it is, but regardless of that I like it anyway. It's the kind of film where several smaller stories are all tied together through coincidence, or an object being passed from one to another, as is the case here. There are some exceptions - I wasn't wild about Au Hasard Balthazar or Babel - but these types of collective narratives, like Magnolia, Short Cuts, Crash and Traffic, usually appeal to me, and having a great ensemble cast never hurts either. Here, the element that ties the stories together is a rifle.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery

The second film in my travels through Steve McQueen's career is actually his fifth movie, as I've yet to come in contact with a copy of Girl on the Run, Never Love a Stranger or The Blob, and is the second film in which he plays the lead (after The Blob, which I really want to see am annoyed I can't find).

Here, McQueen plays George Fowler, a man in need of some funds to pay his way through college after being kicked out years ago. He accepts the job of driver for a bank robbery being conducted by his friend Gino (David Clarke) and two others, John and Willie (Crahan Denton and James Dukas), neither of whom trust George, as he's lived a clean life and hasn't even been to prison. Meanwhile, George meets up with Gino's sister Ann (Molly McCarthy), an old flame of his, and complications arise when she works out the real reason George is in town.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Departures

Once again I find myself writing under the influence of various prescription narcotics as I recover from my latest malady, so please accept the usual apologies for any slurred typing or off kilter ramblings. Well, any more than usual, anyway.

Departures is a film I feel I should have heard more about. I don't stay abreast of foreign features as much as I'd like, but I feel that whenever any that are widely deemed great come along, then the chances are that I've at least heard of them, yet 's slow, personal, moving story of an unemployed cellist discovering self confidence in the most unlikeliest of places has completely passed me by, despite winning the Best Foreign Language Oscar in 2009, beating out the likes of Waltz With Bashir, The Baader Meinhof Complex and The Class, all of which I've heard of and two of which I've seen. I can't really explain why I've not heard of it, though I'm certain it was never released in any cinemas near me, hardly surprising, considering how many screens were booked up for Twilight: New Moon, released one week previously.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Pre-View: Looper

I don't get to go to the cinema too much these days, so to try and make sure I go at least once a month (this month was Brave), this is a new monthly post I'll be doing about the next film to hit the big screen that I will definitely be going to see. My next assured cinematic viewing? Looper.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Napoleon Dynamite

I watched and reviwed this film - begrudgingly - for the recent So You Think You Can Review tournament, the only downside to the competition. Here is my less-than-praising review of the film.


It’s been a long time since I saw this film upon its initial release back in 2004, and I swear the film has changed an awful lot in those brief 8 years, as the last time I watched it I’m sure it was a comedy. In fact, what we have here is a character study of a mentally ill teenager from a broken home, who has grown up the best he could in a world that clearly has no place for him, and that he seems to want to be no part of.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Yojimbo

Another film I reviewed for the recent So You Think You Can Review tournament over at the Lamb that's also on the List.

Akira Kurosawa has never denied the fact that he was heavily influenced by the western genre, citing John Ford, amongst others, as something of an idol. It’s fitting then that at least two of the Japanese director’s most prominent works, this and Seven Samurai, would go on to be remade, unofficially yet almost shot-for-shot in Yojimbo’s case, as two of the definitive classics of the western genre. Though I’ve seen Seven Samurai once before, and The Magnificent Seven and Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy a fistful of times each, this was my first viewing of Kurosawa’s classic. Yojimbo sees a lone, nameless samurai wander into a town divided by two warring gangs. Seeing an opportunity to rectify the situation, and possibly pocket a little something along the way, the ronin stays in town and pits the two rival factions against one another.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Top 5... Boating Disaster Movies

I'm off on a cruise tomorrow - only a short one, a family trip to celebrate my Dad's retirement earlier this year - but as I am something of a level 5 pessimist/worst case scenario anticipator, all I can think about is all the films I've seen where unexpecting people come a cropper aboard some vessel or another. So what better way to rationalise my fears than by making a list of the five best films involving boating disasters of some kind or other.

5. The Perfect Storm
Go back and watch this film, and you'll be shocked at how starry the cast has become. Alongside George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg as the New England fisherman captain and his friend caught in the mother of all storms, there's John C. Reilly, William Fichtner and John Hawkes amongst the crew, and Karen Allen, Diane Lane, Bob Gunton, Christopher McDonald, Michael Ironside and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio waiting back home, fearfully watching the news reports and expecting the worst. Though the once-stellar special effects may now look a little dated, just watch Die Another Day directly afterwards to remind yourself of just how bad those waves could have been.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Mother and Son

This is another of those films that I knew absolutely nothing about before watching - even the language or year it was made (Russian, 1997). Sometimes, this strategy works - see Silver Lode - but other times, like now for example, I wind up confused and ill at ease with my surroundings. I think this is the kind of film you need to be in a specific mood for watching, where you're more open and receptive to what is a deeply emotional and solemn journey taken by two people who barely speak to one another because there's just nothing to say, and when they do it doesn't always make a lot of sense. Not, as was the case with me, fitting it in early on a Saturday morning before heading out for a picnic and a day of shopping.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Raising Arizona

It's hard to imagine a sharper left turn taken by a director than from the Coen brother's debut, Blood Simple, to their sophomore picture, Raising Arizona. Where Blood Simple was dark and mostly serious, Arizona is the closest a film has ever come to capturing a Tex Avery cartoon in live action - with the possible exception of some parts of The Mask.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Vagabond

A farmer finds a woman frozen to death in a ditch one morning, her face blue and her body curled up and contorted, and appearing to the police as if she has been swimming in a vat of wine. Nobody knows where she came from, but the narrator of this film, director Agnes Varda, provides a series of mock-interviews and flashbacks through which the last few months of the girl's life are shown, primarily through the eyes of the many and various people she encountered along the way.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Guaranteed Happiness: Amelie

As I mentioned recently, I came 2nd in the Lamb's So You Think You Can Review tournament. This was one of the films I reviewed for that competition, but as it was on the List as well I figureed I'd use it here too. All praise recycling!

In 1997, after having made two successful, distinctly stylised French films with his co-director Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet popped over to Hollywood to make Alien: Resurrection, a film widely regarded as one of the worst sequels ever to appear on the big screen. You’d have to go a long way to find someone who liked it, and I’d suggest you don’t start with me. Upon returning to his home town of Paris, Jeunet found himself seeing the once-familiar city with fresh eyes, and set out to make a film that would reflect the magic and beauty he had rediscovered. That film is Am√©lie.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Brave

Brave marks something of unchartered territory for animation powerhouse Pixar. It's their first fairytale,, the first set in the past, the first to use magic, and the first to feature a female lead, in Kelly Macdonald's Princess Merida. It's also the Pixar film that I've waited the longest to see since it's cinema release, seeing as it came out here over a month ago, but I only saw it yesterday because of the frankly outrageous 3D scheduling of my cinema (as always, fuck 3D). 

The long delay has added to my already high level of anticipation for the film, seeing as I started reading reviews of my American and New Zealander counterparts months ago when the film was released over there (seriously, why such a long wait for us Brits? Sort it out), and my deep love of most things Pixar (Cars? meh) meant that this film was going to have to do a lot to satisfy me. And unfortunately, it didn't. 

Combat Academy

George Clooney strikes again. Looking up his C.V., I've got at most four more films I have immediate access to until I get to one that's even half decent (From Dusk Till Dawn), and that's skipping six I can't find yet! My god his early career was appalling. And then straight after Dusk I've got the one-two double punch of One Fine Day and Batman and Robin. I am really beginning to regret this decision, but its too late now.

Anyway, Combat Academy. In case you hadn't guessed from the title and the 1986 release date, this is an attempt at a rip-off of the hugely popular Police Academy, down to copying the poster style and title typography, but this time set around a military school. However, the key area they failed to take inspiration from is in the use of colourful, quirky characters, engaging yet entertaining performances, and the inclusion of actual jokes. There's even a commanding officer with a tank-bound pet. They can't even blame it on coincidence either, as director Neal Israel was on script duty for Police Academy.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

So You Think You Can Review Tournament

As I'm sure most of you know, there's a wonderful website known as the LAMB (Large Assembly of Movie Blogs) over at www.largeassmovieblogs.com. I'm proud to be a member of this site (there's a link to it down on the right somewhere), and they recently hosted a tournament-style reviewing competition which I and 31 of my fellow bloggers took part in. The final results were announced yesterday and, after a rollercoaster of a journey, I cam second to the great Dan Heaton of Public Transportation Snob. 

Friday, 7 September 2012

Top 5... Michael Clarke Duncan Roles

Earlier this week, Michael Clarke Duncan sadly passed away, so in his memory here are my favourite performances from the big guy.

5. Manute, Sin City
Though at times he felt a bit lost amidst the shuffle of star wattage in Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's comic book noir, Duncan plays the ruthless Manute well, and leaves an impression in a film full of big characters, great set pieces and lashings of style. He shall be missed if Sin City 2 ever gets off the ground.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Silver Lode

You ever have one of those mornings when you're on holiday, you've woken up a few hours before your other half is likely to surface from the depths of slumber and you can't go anywhere? Well, this happened to me recently, but fortunately I had my laptop and a copy of Silver Lode, yet I knew absolutely nothing of the film (save for it's 81-minute runtime) so I settled down to watch it. I like watching films with o prior knowledge, and it happens less and less these days, so this was a nice surprise. In the opening credits though, I second-guessed the film completely incorrectly. You see, I could tell from the title that it was likely to be a western, and it stars a man called John Payne, who I'd previously never heard of, so I assumed it was a western spoof, and they'd tried to be funny by subbing the lead actor's name with one comically similar to John Wayne. Nope, it turns out there's an actor called John Payne who, according to IMDb, has 73 acting credits to his name, including this definitely-not-a-parody-or-even-a-comedy film.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Broken Blossoms


"This strangely beautiful silent film from D.W. Griffith is also one of his more grim efforts; an indictment of child abuse and the violence of western society." - So reads the LoveFilm blurb for this 1919 silent picture, and should justify why it took me a little while to get around to watching, it sounds bloody depressing. More so, in fact, than it turned out to be, unless the horrendous racism, when seen from a modern perspective, overshadowed the more soul-crushing elements of the plot.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Farmer's Wife

In the late 1920s, having just wedded Alma Reville, marriage was clearly at the forefront of Alfred Hitchcock's mind as he adapted this play be Eden Phillpotts about a farmer who, after the passing of his wife and the marriage of his daughter, seeks to find a new wife within the small group of eligible women within his village. Farmer Samuel Sweetland (Jameson Thomas) is by and large a good man, though he has difficulty in expressing himself, often fails to see what is directly in front of him and has a heightened ego. Still, he means well. After his wife's death, in which her last words are reminding the maid (Lillian Hall-Davis, returning from The Ring) to air out her master's pants, Minta the maid takes over all of the wife's duties as well as her own. Once the farmer's daughter has been given away, Minta is given one more job to do, help Sweetland find a wife, so the two of them sit down and make a list of the four potential candidates.

Monday, 3 September 2012

A Kid in King Arthur's Court

It seems I didn't quite think through the strategy of watching the entire careers of various prestigious film-makers. Who'd have thought that, before they became renowned and laden with numerous awards, actors would take any roles going to pay the rent, regardless of the claptrap they may be. And so it is with A Kid in King Arthur's Court, the family-friendly second entry on Kate Winslet's CV, and what I hope will be the worst, although seeing as I've still got The Holiday to watch at some point, this may not be the case.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Virgin Suicides

Completely unintentionally, this was the second film in a row I watched where a young girl burns her own record collection (after Heavenly Creatures), and also the second in not too long a time in which Kirsten Dunst has sex in a field (after Melancholia a few months ago). With a title like The Virgin Suicides, I wasn't exactly looking forward to watching this film, as it seemed like it was going to be joining the ranks of those thoroughly depressing films I'd been trying to avoid lately, and the fact that it was directed by Sofia Coppola, whose Lost in Translation I wasn't overly fond of the last time I watched it, and who I still haven't completely forgiven for The Godfather Part III, made me even less excited. Plus, its a story of the multiple suicides of a clan of teenage sisters, which always leads to a laugh riot in my books.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

September 2012 Update

August was a pivotal month for the blog, so I've decided to start doing a regular update, to let you know my progress through my menagerie of film lists, and the state of my mental well-being because of them.